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Jackson, Michael (29th August 1958-25th June 2009)

He was an extremely popular and successful singer-songwriter and dancer born in Gary, Indiana, as the 8th youngest of 10 children from a musical family where his father was a singer with The Falcons as well as working in a steel mill.  His brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy, sadly Brandon who was Marlon’s twin passed away while only an infant, and three sisters Rebbie, La Toya and Janet were also singers.

His brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine established a backing band called The Jackson Brothers.  When Michael was just 5 or 6 year old in 1964 he and Marlon joined them playing instruments such as the tambourine and congas.  After a couple of years Michael and Jermaineshared lead vocals and around that time they changed their name to The Jackson 5.

In 1966, when Michael was still only 7 or 8 years old, they were the first prize winners of a well known talent show in their local area and went on tour in the Midwest, giving performances at many black clubs on the “chitlin circuit”.  This tour went on for around two years until 1968 but during those years they were also signed up by the Gary, Indiana, based company Steeltown Records, and released their debut single “Big Boy”.  Although not seeing any major national or chart success with it the record sold 10,000 copies and they went on to release the further single “We Don’t Have to be Over 21 (To Fall in Love)”.

In 1968 the group left Steeltown Records and moved to Motown Records where they were immediately catapulted into stardom.  The first four singles they released all went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting a new chart record.  These were !I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There”. Around that time Rolling Stone magazine described Michael as “a prodigy”.

In just another four years or so Michael ventured out as a solo artist as well as performing with the group and released his debut album Got to Be There which made it to No.3 on the R&B chart and No. 14 on the album chart.  He went on to release his second album Ben with the title track, used for the film of the same name, gaining him his first solo No. 1 hit in the US and No. 7 in the UK as well as winning a Golden Globe and getting an Academy Award nomination.

In 1973 he released Music & Me which produced his No. 14 hit “With a Child’s Heart” which was a cover of a Stevie Wonder song.  At the same time he was touring the world with The Jackson 5 and battling with the changes to his voice due to him being fourteen. The group’s record sales were starting to take a bit of a downturn too as Motown was not allowing input, creative or otherwise, from the group’s members.  The decision for the group to leave the record label came to fruition in 1975.

When he was 16 he released his final album on Motown Records entitled, Forever, Michael.  This didn’t see any of his previous three album’s success, reaching 101 on the Billboard album chart but achieving No. 10 on the R&B album chart.  However, in 1981 the album’s single “One Day in Your Life” reached No. 1 in the UK and became the 6th top selling single there in 1981 after being re-released from his compilation of the same name.

Moving to Epic Records in 1975 with The Jackson 5 the group subsequently became known as The Jackson with their brother Randy officially joining the band and Jermaine leaving to concentrate on his career as a solo artist.  This let to a new resurgence of popularity with the group with hits such as “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and “Can You Feel It” and the release of six albums during the years 1976 to 1984.

Venturing onto the big screen in 1978 he appeared in the film musical The Wiz taking on the role of the scarecrow.  Although not successful he did, however, start collaboration with Quincy Jones who had arranged the movie score.  This would be a changing moment in his career when his talent as an accomplished dancer became recognised alongside his massively successful 5th album in 1979, Off the Wall, which produced hit songs such as “Don’t Stop ‘TilYou Get Enough”, “She’s Out of My Life”, “Rock With You” and the title track. The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and has since sold more then 20 million copies worldwide and won him several awards including a Grammy Award and an American Music Award.  The dancing had it’s downturns too though when he broke his nose in the middle of a routine and entailed him have to have two rhinoplasty procedures and several other operations.

Three years later, in 1982, Michael gave the song “Someone In the Dark” for the movie E.T.’s storybook.  It won him a Grammy Award to go along with the seven others he received that year for his best-selling album Thriller which also got him eight American Music Awards, where he was also presented with the Award of Merit.  The album has since become the best-selling album of all time in the world stacking up in the region of 110 million sales to date and being certified with a Double Diamond status in the US.  Alongside its huge success as an album, the seven singles released from it also became hugely successful.  These include “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and the title track made its own mark in music history with its groundbreaking video, which was the first ever music video chosen by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 2009.  Even the video of The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller sold in excess of 350,000 copies and won itself a Grammy Award in 1985.  The tour for the album was coupled in with the Victory Tour with The Jacksons and all his money raised from that tour were given to charity.

1983 came around and Michael re-united with his brothers to perform live for the TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.  That same time he also performed “Billy Jean” and his famous moonwalk made its first public appearance and immediately gained attention and popularity.

In 1984 the New York Times stated “in the world of pop music there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else”.  There were even Michael Jackson type dolls for sale at that time.  Also in 1984 he and some of his family made a commercial for Pepsi but as he was performing at the concert set up for the ad, his hair caught fire from the pyrotechnics that where being used.  He was inflicted with second degree burns on his scalp and even though he as paid a large out of court settlement by Pepsi, which he donated to what is now the Michael JacksonBurn Center at Culver City’s Brotman Medica Center in California, he never fully recovered. That same year he was presented with an Award for his work with various charities by President Ronald Reagan and he began negotiations to buy the copyrights from ATV Publishing which contained most of The Beatles’ songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney after Paul let his offer fall through.

In 1985 he and Lionel Richie wrote “We Are the World” as a charity song and it became another best-selling single for him with in the region of 30 million copies being sold in aid of famine relief.  The song also gained him another four Grammy Awards.  His negotiations for the ATV Publishing copyrights were also successfully finalised.  Ten years later he would merge the rights with Sony Music Publishing but still retain half the rights.

Around this time his skin began to get noticeably paler spawning media speculation that he was somehow bleaching his skin.  He was diagnosed with lupus and vitiligo and his appearance would dramatically change over the coming years earning him nicknames he hated like “Wacko Jacko”.  It was during his medical treatment for these ailments that he became close friends with Debbie Rowe who would later become his second wife.

1986 saw the release of Captain EO which was a 3D film that Michael collaborated on with Francis Ford Coppola.  The film appeared at EPCOT and Disneyland in Florida followed by Disneyland in Tokyo and Euro Disneyland in Paris who ran it until the 1990s and subsequently in 2010 after Michael passed away.

Five years after the international smash hit Thriller he released the much awaited Bad in 1987 and once again, although not topping the previous album, it was a huge success in its own right with resultant hits that include the title track along with “Dirty Diana”, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Leave Me Alone”, “Man in the Mirror” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”.  He became the first act to have five No. 1 singles from the same album in the United States and received a further Grammy Award and the American Music Awards presented him with an Award of Achievement. He then embarked on the Bad World Tour which saw him performing to 4.4 million people in 123 concerts and breaking records for sellout performances in Japan and the UK, where he broke the standing Guinness World Record.

His success continued in 1988 when his autobiography Moonwalk was published and topped the New York Times best seller list.  It was followed by his film Moonwalker where he starred with Joe Pesci and he topped charts yet again when he stayed in the No. 1 position on the Billboard Top Music Video Cassette chart for 22 weeks.  Also in 1988 he built his Neverland Ranch near Santa Ynez in California.

In 1989 he earned the distinction of being the first Western act to appear in a TV commercial in the Soviet Union and he became known as “The King of Pop” after being presented with the Soul Train Heritage Award by Elizabeth Taylor who referred to him as “the true king of pop, rock and soul”.

To finish off the 1980s he was named the White House’s “Artist of the Decade” by George H.W. Bush and the last five years of the decade saw him making donations to the Unite negro College Fund of half a million dollars along with the profits from “Man in the Mirror”.

When the 1990s came around he took out a contract renewal with Sony for $65 million in 1991 and that same year issued the album Dangerous.  The album included a featured rapper which helped seal its success for being the best selling album that included that kind of music and also the best selling album worldwide for the year in 1992.  The ensuing single releases were chart hits as usual with “Black and White” being No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks and being named 1992’s best selling single worldwide and “Remember the Time” reaching No. 3.  “Heal the World” would become the biggest from Dangerous in the UK and he established his children’s charity the Heal the World Foundation.  The world tour that ensued, and lasted from June 1992 to Novemeber 1993, was another case of sell-out concerts to in the region of 3.5 million people and the broadcasting rights went to HBO in a record-breaking deal of $20 million.   He performed at President Clinton’s 1992 Inaugural Gala around that time and aside from his performance he begged for more funds to be donated for the research of AIDS as well as to charities dealing with the sufferers of the illness in the wake of the death of the teenager Ryan White. That same year he went to Africa where he was crowned “King Sani” in Cote d’Ivoire and his second book, Dancing the Dream, which was a poetry collection, was released and become another bestseller.

In 1993 he gave a spectacular performance at Super Bowl XXVII’s half time show and with is usual crowd pulling ability and stage presence the live audience and viewers in America alone were around 135 million.  His Grammy nominations that year were many again and he was presented with the Living Legend Award.  He also won several American Music Awards and the first ever International Artist Award, which has since been given his name.  1993 was not all good for him though when he was faced with the accusation of abusing Jordan Chandler by the child’s father.  He suffered the humiliation of a strip search by police, which he never got over, there were no conclusive evidence found and no charges were officially brought.  Eventually there was an out-of-court settlement by his lawyers in 1994 but it was later stated that he had not given his consent for it.

1994 saw a happier time for him when he married Lisa Marie Presley in the Dominican Republicin secret.  They stayed together as man and wife for under two years before getting amicably divorced.

In 1995 he released the two disc set HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1 with the first disc being his greatest hits and the second being 15 new ones.  It shot up to No. 1 on the US album chart, winning yet another Grammy Award nomination. As always there were several successful singles that came out of it with Grammy nominations and chart hits for the songs “Scream/Childhood”, which was a duet with Janet Jackson, “You Are Not Alone”, which holds the record for being the first song to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Earth Song” which held the top spot on the UK for chart for six weeks over the Christmas period and the controversial “They Don’t Care About Us” where he released a version with changed lyrics. With 20 million copies sold worldwide became it also broke the record for the most multiple-disc album sales.  The accompanying world tour saw him performing to around 4.5 million people in 35 countries and while still on tour in Australia he married Deborah Rowe in Sydney.  Their first child Michael Joseph Jr., who is known as Prince, was born in 1997.  The following April their daughter Paris-Michael Katherine was born.

Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix appeared on the shelves in 1997 with five new songs alongside the remixed hit songs from HIStory.  Once again it became a bestseller, reaching No. 1 on the UK album chart, getting platinum certification in the US and gaining the honour of being the best selling remix album ever to be released.  The title track was also a No. 1 song on the UK singles chart.

In 1999 he and Deborah were divorced and he assumed full custody of the children.  That same year he performed with Luciano Pavarotti at a charity benefit and then established his own set of benefit concerts known as Michael Jackson & Friends, with the events held in Koreaand Germany.

The new millennium saw him receiving a further honour in being named the Artist of the ’80s by the American Music Awards.  He announced his intention to leave Sony to the head of the company before he released Invincible, six years since the released of HIStory. Due to this probable imminent departure all releases of songs and videos were held in suspension.

30 years after becoming a solo artist he celebrated the anniversary at two concerts at MadisonSquare Gardens where there was an all-star line up of guest singers and he performed with his brothers for the first time in 17 years.  The concerts were recorded and broadcast on television in November 2001 as Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration: The Solo Years.  The day after the final concert was held, in the September of 2001, the 9/11 attacks occurred.  He immediately became one of the organisers to put together the benefit concert United We Stand: What More Can I Give which was held in Washington D.C. in the October.  Also in the October his Invincible eventually got officially released and, even though the sales were lower than for previous albums, it got certified double-platinum and topped the charts in thirteen countries. The singles released were “Butterflies”, “Cry” and “You Rock My World” and there was no promotional national tour.

The next year he was given yet another honour when he was named Artist of the Century by the American Music Awards, making it his 22nd award from them.  Also in 2002 he became a father for the third time to Prince Michael Jackson II, often known as Blanket, who was born to a surrogate mother.  He sparked a worldwide controversy, however, when he lifted the infant over a railing several storeys up in a hotel in Berlin that he was staying in.  He later admitted he’d made a “terrible mistake”.

Also in 2002 his compilation album Number Ones was released and made six-times platinum on the UK and triple-platinum in the US.  That same year he had a documentary entitled Living with Michael Jackson made about him by the UK journalist Martin Bashir for Britain’s ITV channel.  After it had been seen in the US there was an enquiry opened by the Santa Barbara County Attorney’s office and following their investigations Michael was arrested on several counts of child molestation and administering intoxicating substances to a child seen in the broadcast.  The trial took place from January to June 2005 but he was acquitted on each count.  He then relocated to Bahrain and began initial discussions with Two Seas Records, although a contract was never finalised.

It was decided to close the house at the Neverland Ranch in 2006 for financial reasons with several reports being issued about him not making loan repayments.  Sony did release the Michael Jackson: Visionary series, which was 20 singles from the ’80s and ’90s and the majority of the singles released from the package made a return to the charts.  Also in 2006 he started recording a new album in Ireland and, after accepting a Diamond Award for record sales of over 100 million, he gave a performance at the World Music Awards.

In 2007 he was backing collaborating with Sony to purchase the Famous Music LLC publishing company which gave him further ownership of song rights.  He also worked on a many recordings with the acclaimed producer, but the contents for an album were incomplete and never came to be.

In 2008 he was back releasing work though when Thriller 25, with the addition of the extra song “For All Time” and some remixes which saw relatively minor success, came out to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The album achieved hit status and was followed by Sony then releasing King of Pop to mark his 50th birthday, which also went into the album chart Top 10s in many countries. That same year he transferred the title of Neverland Ranch while still having a stake in it and cleared his debts.

When 2009 came around he appeared in the 02 Arena in London to announce a new series of concerts which would be his first for 12 years.  The London ticket sales were astronomical at a million selling in under two hours, breaking records once again, to the point that the concerts went from 10 to 50 dates.  He did his lead-up rehearsals for the tour, due to begin in July 2009, in Los Angeles but with just under three weeks to go until his first performance he suffered a cardiac arrest in bed at the mansion he was staying in and passed away in hospital.  His physician would later be charged with involuntary manslaughter. The news of his death shocked and stunned people the world over and the amount of people wanting to read or talk about what had happened literally crashed much of the internet.  He was headline news on television and covered the front page of most of the world’s newspapers and magazines and The Sun newspaper in Britain featured him on their front page for the next two weeks.

Following a service for his family members, his memorial, which was televised to a possible one billion people, saw performances by many top artists who wanted to pay tribute with songs and eulogies and there was a standing ovation given to Reverend Al Sharpton.

His single “This is It” was released posthumously with his brothers re-uniting to sing the backing vocals.  Michael Jackson’s This Is It which was a documentary of his recent rehearsals became the highest grossing documentary of all time worldwide, although just running for two weeks.  There was a compilation album released alongside.  He was also given four posthumous awards at the American Music Awards.

With his very untimely and sudden death he left behind a legacy of having touched the lives of probably billions of people during his lifetime.  His staggering sales of in the region of 750 million recordings, his transformation of pop music and how it was perceived, his two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his dancing, his cinematic videos, his countless Awards and world records along with his sheer entertainment quality are unlikely to be matched and will be remembered forever.

Here is the monumental and groundbreaking video of Thriller…